Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Sacred

I've never been invited to a hair-shaving party before. When I was, my thoughts ran wild with expectations. Will party-goers be expected to shave their hair? Will I get carried away in the moment, shave my head and regret it? Will it be a sad party?

When Deb and I arrive, the party has already swung and moved on to its more serious purpose. The food table full of striped hot dogs, open bags of Doritos, and plates of cookies, has been abandoned. We walk past the patio and down the sloping grass into an arena of onlookers. Sophie's mom is holding the shaver like a pro; Sophie's sister-in-law is half bald. Has Sophie already gone?

She sees us. She runs to the opposite side of the yard, forgetting herself once more, and treating us like we're honored guests. We're not allowed to hug and Sophie keeps her distance, but her energy is more like Christmas morning, not like a teenager enduring chemotherapy.

"Thanks for coming!" She's the same Sophie except she's missing a keystone of her female identity: her thick sun-bleached locks of hair. Her female crown of glory. Yet, she seems to be taking it not-too-seriously--yet. Right now, she is the birthday girl, the celebrant--ee, the girl of the hour. We are here to honor and abide in her courage.

And to think just weeks ago, she didn't have a clue this burden was coming fast down the bowling lane ready to strike.

A brother-in-law steps forward. Zip, zip, and his hair lies on the sacrificial tarp beneath the barber's chair. Sophie's two year old nephew wanders onto the tarp. He insists on getting a buzz cut too. His mom concedes. Reluctantly. Sophie's friends tease each other, "Who's next?"

And then she steps forward. Sophie's sister. Resolute, unwavering, fully aware of the sacrifice she's about to make. She's a junior in high school with thick, long hair. She bows her head. Her mother gathers her hair and braids it. Her head stays bowed. Mom chops the braid with scissors. The razor swiftly removes a row of hair leaving only stubble. The crowd quiets. It's somber. I am a witness to the sacred.